New tank question

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My wife wanted to get my daughter a fish for Christmas. My daughter picked a green spotted puffer, my wife picked up a half gallon betta tank and some tropical fish flakes. I did research to see what I needed to do to give it a good life. I quickly realized we bit off more than we could chew. I found a 55 gallon tank and started to try and right the wrong. Long story short, a combination of lots of mistakes. The fish didn't even last a week. Very sad. We think ich, but most people don't agree with how fast it died. IDK for sure.

I debated what to turn the brackish tank in to. I didn't want to go fresh, I wanted another gsp, but my wife didn't like that it was a solo fish. Since it is for our daughter, we want the next occupance to be varied and interesting. I decided to take the tank full sw since there were more options. I have three ghost shrimp that my lfs (supposed to be feeders for the gsp) says should make the transition if I take it slow. The tank is cycled and almost full salt. My lfs said to do a canister filter instead of sump and refugium. But everything I read now says never do canister for salt water. My cabinet has tiny doors, so I couldn't fit anything in there anyways. So I had a weird thought that since it is for my daughter and slightly educational. I want to do a display refugium. With a canister filter. From what I can tell. The part that hinders canisters is that they are more difficult to clean and disassemble and the frequency for removing bthe solid waste trapped in the filter floss builds up and breaks down. What if I made a pre filter for filter floss in the refugium and then the canister could be all biological and chemical? So I could limit the clean out of the canister to once a month or so. The refugium could be larger and have a lot of macro algea to take up the nitrates and I could fill it with other similar fish to diversify the tanks a bit more to give me more for my daughter to see and watch and learn about.

Anyone have any thoughts or ideas of where to look if someone has done something similar.

Keeping in mind the idea is not for a show tank, but for less maintenance for me and more diversity for my daughter.

Thank you in advance for your help and time.


Well-Known Member
best thing along with the easiest and cheapest on my old 55g was do an in tank refugium. I just crammed in some 1/4" plastic grid (egg crate) (lighting diffuser for dropped ceilings 4'x2' section ~$12 or so) 3" in front of the back glass. And added 2 4' long 2 tube fluorescent shop lights behind the tank pointing forward to light up the area between the back glass and egg crate. This formed a protected area where macro algae like caulerpa and chaeto thrived along with pods.

Give that a try and I think you will be amazed on how easy and healthy the tank is.

my .02